The reparations movement in the United States and around the world took a significant step forward last week when Congressman John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the US Congress, introduced a revised version of HR40, his long-standing reparations bill, at the start of the 115th Congress.
The new bill, entitled, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act, will focus on reparations remedies.
“The revised bill reflects the advances in the legal and societal discussion of the transatlantic slave trade and reparations,” said Cong. Conyers. “The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions both in our community and in American society as a whole. Slavery is a blemish on this nation’s history, and until it is formally addressed, our country’s story will remain marked by this blight.”
The revised bill has received enthusiastic support from advocates for reparatory justice in the United States and across the globe. To date, some 20 members of the US Congress along with dozens of national associations and civil society organizations are supporting the bill and Cong. Conyers hopes to garner up to 100 co-sponsors in the weeks ahead.
Dr. Ron Daniels, convener and chairman of the National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and President of the Institute of the Black World (IBW) applauded the new version of HR40.
“Once again, Congressman John Conyers is to be commended for his vision and courage for introducing this vital measure,” said Daniels. “Updating HR-40 to examine reparations remedies is a significant step forward in addressing the devastating inter-generational harms inflicted by centuries of enslavement and structural racism on African-Americans. This assessment and action is especially important given the “state of emergency” in numerous Black communities across this country.”
Kamm Howard, chairman of the Legislative Committee of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) and a member of NAARC, played a leading role in mobilizing public support for the new bill.
In adding his commendations to the revised bill, Howard said: “NCOBRA is very pleased with the forward, progressive action of Congressman Conyers with the introduction of the revised HR40. The new legislation, in accord with international norms and standards of reparatory justice, seeks to truly address the multi-generational injury, mass inequalities and discrimination that plague, and will continue to plague African descendants in America, if left unaddressed.. This can be model legislation for African Descendants globally.”
The revised version of HR40 comes in the wake of other important developments in the global movement for reparatory justice in recent months. National reparations commissions are currently in formation in Canada, Britain, Brazil, Colombia and also in Central America. And, in 2016 the Illinois State Assembly passed a unanimous resolution supporting the establishment of a reparations study commission in that state and called on President Obama to establish a similar commission at the Federal level before he leaves office.
The National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) noted that in the past, the focus on the social effects of slavery, segregation and its continuing economic implications remained largely ignored by US mainstream analysis. Yet, these economic issues are the root cause of many critical issues in the African-American community today, such as education, healthcare and criminal justice policy, including policing practices.